If it is true that all human hearts yearn for peace, why isn’t peace education given an important place in our personal lives, in our schools, in our political relationships or our spiritual lives? Peacemaking can be taught in our schools — not as a fringe benefit but as an alternative to our military industrial complex and the dominating power of the so-called “free market” that has created economic inequality that threatens and weakens our democratic system.
The literature on peacemaking is large and growing. How many of you reading this have taken a peace course? Some colleges and universities have programs, and the Center for Teaching Peace has reached what’s estimated to be thousands of elementary and high schools at appropriate age levels, starting from primary grades to adults. I know of no public school in our area, but Warren Wilson College lists Peace and Justice Studies, which includes peacekeeping as part of the curriculum.
Peace studies draw on political science, sociology, history, anthropology, psychology, philosophy and other fields that influence our way of life. Let’s give peace a chance and place it in the school curriculum. Take peace seriously, not merely once a year when the International Day of Peace is observed locally in Asheville. I am operating on the principle that it is easier to build a peaceful child than heal the tendency of war-making and violence in adults.
It will be a long and tedious journey to develop and incorporate teaching peace as part of our curriculum in public schools. It reflects changes in the American way of life. Here are a few example topics geared to the child’s development: nonviolence, human nature, personal conflict resolution and Socratic discussions. By middle school or high school, include the writings of Gandhi, Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, Howard Zinn, Gene Sharp, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coleman McCarthy, who founded the Center for Teaching Peace in 1980, which has spread to many public and private schools.
There are too many inspirational and thoughtful people to name in this short essay. They come from all ethnic, religious, secular and political backgrounds throughout the globe. I suggest you check it out for yourself. It will inspire you, frustrate you, perhaps anger you — and paradoxically, bring you the joy of participating with a sense of being connected to the world. And, in our area, there are a lot of wonderful, dedicated and sincere people to meet that may just expand your life.
I can’t tell you what to do, but depending on your life situation, the least you can do is inform yourself, notify your representatives and support peace and justice workers. Live up to your ideals, resisting the temptation to just go along.
We Americans tend to call demonstrations “protests,” but we are asking not just to stop something but “to start something new” — a new way to look at the past, present and forge a truly United States.
Find out for yourself: Read and reflect on American history in the period that interests you, such as the making of the Constitution, George Washington’s presidency and the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, known as the “trust buster,” breaking up big businesses. For more resources on education or nonviolence, email email@example.com.
— Ed Sacco